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London Canal Museum and the King’s Cross Ice Well

The London Canal Museum is a small museum located close to King’s Cross. There, you can learn a lot about the rich history of London’s canals, the people who lived and worked around the waterways, the horses that pulled the boats, and everything in between. But this museum has a hidden secret as well.

Inside, you can see a unique historical artifact: a huge Victorian ice well that was used to store ice brought from Norway. Yes, this is for real, and it’s why I first learned about this place.

I was in London in early 2017 for work reasons, and the company I work for has an office at King’s Cross. As the curious person that I am, I started researching what was historical, unique, or remotely entertaining around the area.

I started looking for something different since I didn’t want to see where Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft. This is how I found out where Joseph Grimaldi is buried, the Karl Marx Memorial Library, and the only statue of Lenin in London.

I also found out about the King’s Cross Ice Well and the London Canal Museum.

What can you see inside the London Canal Museum?

The London Canal Museum was opened to the public back in 1992, and since then, it tells the rich story of the UK waterways, it runs monthly talks, summer activities for families, and guided trips through the Islington Tunnel and other walks.

Inside the museum, you will learn about the history of London’s canals and how they helped shape the city that exists today, from the cargo that they helped spread around town to the people who lived and worked along the vast waterways.

Also, the horses that used to pull the boats are something that I never thought about before!

But the short video below explains the museum better than anything I can say.

A visit to the King’s Cross Ice Well

Like I said before, I first heard about the London Canal Museum because of its ice well, a unique artifact from Victorian times that was so unusual I had to see it with my own eyes. This artifact is the King’s Cross Ice Well, which Carlo Gatti used to house imported ice from Norway.

The ice was brought to the ice well by ship and canal barge and preserved in two wells under the buildings where the London Canal Museum is located today. One of these ice wells can be viewed from the museum’s public area, and it’s a weird sight.

A History of Ice: From Ice Wells to Refrigerators

Carlo Gatti was a Swiss immigrant who arrived in London back in 1847. He was an entrepreneur who became famous as an ice cream manufacturer, considered a decadent luxury in Victorian Britain. His ice well in London wasn’t a simple well. It consisted of two conjoined wells more than 12 meters in depth and almost 10 meters wide, making it possible to store quite a few tons of natural ice inside.

And with this ice well, Carlo Gatti created an empire that supplied ice to clients across London.

When he died in 1878, he was a millionaire.

The King’s Cross ice well was used until 1904, when technology made it obsolete. The cellars where the wells are located were covered and forgotten for a while as the building was converted into a horse and cart depot.

Everything changed in 1992 when the London Canal Museum was open to the public. The ice wells beneath the building were cleaned and lit and became a small part of the museum.

You can even see inside the well for your chair in real time since the museum has a web-controlled camera inside it! These are real people!

The London Canal Museum and the King’s Cross Ice Well can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 in the morning to 16:30 in the afternoon. The visit costs £5.00 for adults and half of this for children.

To learn more about prices, events, and opening times, visit their website below.

Ice Cold in London: The Story of the King’s Cross Ice Wells inside the London Canal Museum

12-13 New Wharf Road,
London, N1 9RT

Felipe Tofani

Felipe Tofani

Felipe Tofani is a passionate designer with a penchant for crafting unique experiences and a mixed taste in music. As the curator behind this blog's explorations, he takes pride in discovering fascinating destinations. Whether unearthing hidden gems or sharing captivating historical narratives, Felipe is the creative force driving the stories you find here. Join him on a journey of design, discovery, and the delightful rhythm of unconventional tunes.View Author posts